「日刊四字」へようこそ!

Now Featuring 1級 Grammar, Everyday Japanese That You Won't Find in the Book, and Language and Cultural Trivia!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

我田引水

がでん いんすい
gaden insui

The Giving Tree is a fantastic book, and one that seems to have crossed the cultural divide pretty well. I've seen a lot of translated copies in Japanese classrooms or homes. Shel Silverstein had such a great ability to embed important life lessons for kids into dark, sad stories, without ever making anyone feel like what they were reading was dark, or sad, or... educational, I guess. I mean, think back about the story of The Giving Tree. That was a spoiled little kid, who grew up into an ungrateful man, who eventually becomes a sad, apathetic old man. It's a story about an exploitative relationship, and one that aptly characterizes today's yoji.

Definition:
我が田に水を引く。つまり物事を自分の都合のいいように取りはからったりすること。
Translations:
Literal - Drawing water for one's own field.
1. Being selfish
2. Acting in one's own self-interest
3. Manipulating (situations, arguments, people) to suit one's self

Think about the literal translation as though you were drawing the water for your field out of your neighbor's drinking supply.

The second, third, and fourth kanji are pretty easily recognizable: field, pull (draw), and water. If you haven't learned the first kanji yet though, you've definitely heard it. Let's look at some of the ways that it can be used.

  • 我々(われわれ; wareware): the あらたまった version of "watashi-tashi." You don't use this to say, "We're going to the store." You use it for "We are gathered here today...."
  • 我侭 (わがまま; wagamama): mostly written in kana these days, meaning "selfish; self-centered; egotistical."
  • 我輩 (わがはい; wagahai): an arrogant, masculine way to say "me," "myself," or "us." It's actually a pretty old form of speech, but many people know it because of this famous Japanese book, which of course, inspired one of the funniest lines in this cartoon.
Back to today's yoji though, I've found a million different usages on the web, in some of the following patterns:
  • 我田引水をする
  • 我田引水的な
  • 我田引水になる
  • 我田引水で(+動詞)
    例文:
    ALTでいる英語の先生はよく、教えてやった英語より、日本語を教えてもらっている。何で日本に来たかったと聞かれると、「日本語を習いたかった」と返事する人が多いけど、「英語を教えたかった」と言う人があまりいない。日本に来る前にそう言う経験になろうと思ったら、ちょっと、我田引水的な計画よね?
    English teachers working as ALTs often do more learning of Japanese than they do teaching of English. If asked why they wanted to come to Japan, many will reply that they wanted to learn Japanese, but there aren't that many who say "I wanted to teach English." If that's the kind of experience they were counting on before they came, isn't that kind of a self-serving plan?

    5 comments:

    Claytonian said...

    田中さんはいつも大分の米を取るよね。
    Mrs. Tanaka always takes a lot of rice.

    ええ!我が輩は田中さんに米を取られるのは何回も!
    Yeah! Tanaka has taken rice at our expense several times!

    じゃ、賛成多数で村八分ほど我田引水の罪かどうか決めったらどう?
    Well then, by a majority vote, shall we decide if this is a ostracize-worthy selfish crime?

    そんな、民社主義、いえ社会主義でしょう?
    That's democracy--no, socialism, isn't it?

    Obscure cat find! What interesting tidbits you manage. I'll add one: である=なり, so they seem to have modified it to maybe sound more rhymey and affirmative. Just a guess, but I am still exploring the dearu nari relationship.

    lisze said...

    「ありがとう」と言わないで、いつも私のものを我田引水で使っている。

    He is always, selfishly using my stuff without saying thanks.

    AzzidisRidden said...

    lisze,

    ーずに is a great conjugation to know. When you add it to verbs instead of ない in plain negative forms, it means "without doing...."

    砂糖をいれずに。。。 was part of the listening comp on the 3級 JLPT last year. Dude wants his coffee prepared without putting sugar in.

    AzzidisRidden said...

    言わずに

    知らずに

    使わずに

    とか

    Claytonian said...

    or just ず followed by a comma, but that is the written convention.